Monday, January 05, 2009

Question from Catherine - Jane Seymour's attractiveness

Was jane seymour pretty or ugly?


Lara said...

Well, I suppose it would depend on the beholder, as they say. If you go by Holbein's portrait, which is probably the best idea we have of what she really looked like, she would not be considered very pretty by today's standards. It seems like the word I come across most in association with her is "plain" as in "plain Jane".

From her ODNB entry:
"The imperial ambassador, Eustace Chapuys, described her as ‘of middle stature and no great beauty, so fair that one would call her rather pale than otherwise’ and added that she was inclined to be proud and haughty (LP Henry VIII, 10, no. 901)."

So make of that what you will... My knowledge of the intricacies of Henry's court at that time (or any time!) is limited, so I don't know if Chapuys would be biased toward or against or neutral towards Jane.

Anonymous said...

I think there is a wide area between pretty and ugly known as ordinary or average. That is where Jane Seymour seems to fall.

Elizabeth M. said...

She was certainly not a raving beauty, by today's standards, and not even by the standards of her time. Looking at her Holbein portrait, she had hard eyes, a pale complexion, and a double chin. She has a very prim and dour look on her face. Certainly what attractiveness she had was not helped by her preference for the gable hood, which did nothing for the face of the wearer. It was clunky and heavy, and did not frame the face, as the sleek, stylish French hood so popularized by Anne Boleyn.
I would say Jane was not exactly ugly, but she certainly wasn't a stylish, polished beauty. The word plain does best describe her--I would put it more charitably and say she was ordinary. To put her in a crowd of contemporary women, there was nothing she had in the way of beauty which made her a stand-out. Unlike Anne Boleyn, with her extremely dark hair and eyes, her sense of fashion and style, her intelligence and wit, and her continental polish. She was no great beauty either by the standards of her time, but she made the most of what she had by putting focus on her other qualities, which made her seem more beautiful than she actually was. Jane did not have the sophistication do do that.
I think Henry was more attracted to Jane because she was just the opposite of Anne--she was quiet, subservient, of no formidable intelligence, and matronly.

Katlyn R. said...

Jane's beauty was certainly not what attracted Henry. She was sweet-tempered, soft-spoken, and gentle... Much like Katherine of Aragon, the opposite of quick-witted and sharp-tongued Anne Boleyn. Jane was of course not ugly, because Henry would not have been attracted to an ugly woman, regardless of her sweet nature. However, don't be fooled: Jane Seymour was certainly not as virginal as she may come off. One courtier noted on the subject of her chastity, "The king will marry her on the pretense that she is a virgin, and when he is ready to divorce her, there will be many ready to testify that she was not."
She is personified as virtue incarnate, but was most likely not.

Jacks-A-Million said...

I think that although Jane wasn't a stunning beauty she was considered in those days an English beauty. She was fair and blond. Henry was probably attracted to her because she was not at all like Anne. Jane was quiet and soft-spoken and her features were plain in comparison to Anne's striking ones.

epiphany said...

Jane was never considered beautiful, even in her own time. Read Chapuay's description of her - and he was one of her supporters! Henry chose her because she was quiet and malleable - or so she led him to believe. Their's was no great passion, but just a king who needed a break after doing battle with two women who were more than a match for him. A meek, dull woman was just what the doctor ordered.